More tools to understand weather

Map of daily maximum temperature (National) for July 11, 2013 (copyright Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada)

Map of daily maximum temperature (National) for July 11, 2013 (copyright Agriculture and Agri-foods Canada)

It seems like weather is constantly in the news these days. Drought, flood, heat – you name it, we've been dealing with it.

Obviously, farmers have always been hugely dependent on the vagaries of weather. One of the quirks of our times is just as weather may seem less predictable, there are also more and better tools to chart, understand and share information.

Here's a new application from Agriculture and Agri-food Canada, called the Agroclimate Impact Recorder, or AIR.  (And yes, Canadian maps can be relevant to U.S. farmers because weather happens across regions and totally ignores political boundaries.)

I suppose it's just one more example of crowd-sourcing, as per this summary explanation:

The Agroclimate Impact Reporter Maps provide you with monthly snapshots of current and historic individual impacts, as reported by registered volunteer reporters.

This July 12th write-up from iPolitics quotes Patrick Cherneski, a forecasting manager with the  National Agroclimate Information Service (NAIS)

…the new site is more user-friendly, with a heavier emphasis on the broader agricultural sector. “When you first go there you can see right off the hop where most of the impacts have been reported,” he said.

“On an individual basis, having access to these maps gives [producers], I think, a bigger picture view of their region,” Cherneski explained. “By being able to look at the collective map one may be able to make operational decisions… and marketing decisions.”

For sure, gathering weather data is far from new – this is just a more convenient way to access the info, with better maps and expanded on-the-ground participation. (Canadians interested in reporting weather info for the AIR program can learn more about doing so here.) Noodling about the site it appears to me that most of the long-term attention has focused on the Canadian prairies – but there are maps with data for Ontario and Quebec as well.

And let's not forget the role radio has long played in sharing relevant weather information. Where farming is king, weather still rates serious time and attention – check out this full-tilt weather round-up out of WILL radio in Illinois. If commodity market news is your thing there are still outlets like the Farm Journal Radio.

So, I am curious what farmers on both sides of the border think about these newer types of weather resources. Do you use them? How are they helpful? And what's not happening on the weather info front that you wish was available?

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